Robert Ludlum’s The Janus Reprisal by Jamie Freveletti is the ninth spy thriller in the Covert-One series (available September 11, 2012).
With U.S. intelligence agencies wracked by internal power struggles and paralyzed by bureaucracy, the president was forced to establish his own clandestine group—Covert-One. It is activated only as a last resort, when the threat is on a global scale and time is running out.
Covert-One operative Colonel Jon Smith is attending a conference in The Hague on infectious diseases, together with leading scientists and political figures from around the world. Without warning, the conference hotel is consumed in a bloodbath. Smith is caught in the crossfire and barely escapes . . . but not before discovering a picture of himself and two other targets in the pocket of one of the shooters.
Who is targeting them and why? Smith knows one of the other people in the pictures is an MI6 operative, but who is the woman? And why did the perps break into the safe of the hotel where some of the delegates were staying but not steal any valuables apart from some scientific samples in test tubes?
There are a lot of whys in this novel, but not enough time to think about them, not only because the answers are too easy to find, but also due to the fact that the action progresses so fast that there’s hardly any time to think things through.
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith opened his eyes to see a shadowy figure standing at the foot of his hotel room bed pointing a gun at him. The red pinpoint dot of the weapon’s laser sight skittered up the comforter cover toward his chest, making a wild pattern of loops on the way, as if the shooter were drunk and unable to aim his weapon. Smith rolled to the right, propelling himself off the mattress and onto the floor, hitting the carpet with a thudding sound and landing face down, using his hands to break the fall. A silenced bullet tore into the pillow.
And that’s only the beginning; the beginning of a brief but fast-paced journey that will throw Smith time and again in harm’s way, and which will almost bring to a premature end the career of one of his kind-of-colleagues in the FBI. Smith is a stubborn man and he’s determined to stop the criminal mastermind who’d tried to take him out from moving forward with his plans, whatever those may be. His opponents however are not in the mood to let him have things go his way. They’re sleazy and they’re formidable, and they’ll come close to having him killed more than once.
Smith lurched to the passenger’s side, wrenched open the door, and collapsed inside. His feet weren’t off the ground when Russell slammed the car into reverse. She hit the gas and the car shot back, bouncing off the curb, the front swinging into place as she twisted the steering wheel. The rear window on the passenger side cracked and Smith heard the bullet whiz past. Smith was still wrestling with the door when Russell shifted into drive and the car jumped ahead. She drove down the street and turned at the first corner. Despite all the motion around him, Smith [who was drugged] was having a hard time staying awake.
Of course that’s not the end of their troubles. Smith and Russell, the aforementioned FBI officer, will spend a lot of time together or apart, trying to avoid death, but also struggling to save New York City from an imminent threat. In their fight they are not completely alone, but, at the same time, they just don’t know who to trust anymore. And as if that’s not enough, the woman in the picture (whose identity they’ve discovered) is giving them a hard time as well, as she’s too arrogant to admit that she can’t really protect herself from the people who are after her.
No matter; with her help or not, with their superiors’ support or not, Smith and Russell will just have to keep on fighting, till the very end.
When the return fire came, it felt as though it was from all directions. Smith heard the higher pitched sound of the reports from the rifles and he dropped to the ground, doing his best to keep his weapon high. Water splashed up on his face and he felt it soak through his clothes. He crawled to the first rail and over it, keeping his gun pointed up and firing. A click told him that it was empty.
The action is quite cinematic, the characters well-drawn and the plot as tight as they come, so I’d say that Jamie Freveletti has somehow managed to emulate or rather adopt the writing style that Robert Ludlum thrived in. As we read in her author’s note:
When I was asked to write this novel, I thought about what made Robert Ludlum’s books so fascinating. Pacing, certainly, and plot, yes, but also characters . . . I wanted to write about Jon Smith with the same humanity, and I wanted to give him a high-stakes plot that also fit within our current worldview . . .
And she did just that; in a masterful way, if I may add.
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Lakis Fourouklas has published four novels and three short-story collections in Greek. He’s currently translating his work into English and blogs at Fiction & More. He also keeps a few blogs in Greek regarding general fiction, Japanese literature, and crime fiction. Follow him on Twitter: @lakisf. He lives in the wilderness of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Read all posts by Lakis Fourouklas for Criminal Element.